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Archaeologists Seek Signs of Joshua's Conquest in Last Unexplored Biblical City

Updated: Nov 2, 2018

Haaretz.com, Ariel David, October 24, 2018

Scrambling to save the last unexcavated biblical town from dirt bikers, archaeologists have found layers going back more than 4,000 years, since before Joshua's time

It was a Saturday afternoon and ancient bones and pottery were sent flying again as amateur motorcyclists raced over the dirt paths crisscrossing Tel Shimron, a hill in northern Israel. Little did these weekend racers know (or perhaps care) that they were riding over the stratified remains of towns and villages that had been built atop one another for more than 4,000 years, from before the time of the biblical conquest by Joshua up until the early years of the modern state of Israel.

“We had to do some quick salvage work over there, where they are spinning their wheels, because the bikes were turning up bones and materials from the Bronze Age,” says Daniel Master, an archaeologist from Wheaton College, near Chicago, Illinois.

To limit the damage, archaeologists covered and reburied the most vulnerable parts of the site. A natural reserve, Tel Shimron is surrounded by a fence which regularly gets torn down by bikers and other trespassers, Master explained during a visit to the site last week.

Shimron is one of the last major biblical sites yet to be properly explored by archaeologists. Now the tel, a mound formed by subsequent levels of human habitation, has become the focus of a major expedition. The archaeologists have already turned up the remains of a large Canaanite city from the Middle Bronze Age; a prosperous Hellenistic town with international connections; and a Jewish village from the Roman era.

Researchers hope the site will help answer key questions about the historicity of the Bible, including, possibly, whether the Israelite conquest narrated in the Book of Joshua actually happened.

How could a large site clearly dating back thousands of years, and possibly crucial to the biblical narrative of the Israelites, be ignored for so long?

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